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Beer Guy: Thousands headed to Saturday's Brewgrass

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9/13/2012 - Beer Guy: Thousands headed to Saturday's Brewgrass
by Tony Kiss - Asheville Citizen Times

 Drink lots of water. Eat pizza and other food. Stay out of the sun. And be very careful about about buying tickets from strangers.

 Asheville's wildly popular Brewgrass craft beer festival returns noon-7 p.m. Saturday at Martin Luther King Jr. Park. Some 3,500 craft beer lovers will gather for the sold-out celebration.

Brewgrass has become Asheville's hottest annual brew-related event. It took just eight minutes for the first 3,000 tickets to sell out online. Many of those went to out-of-towners. To give locals a sold shot at tickets, producer Jimi Rentz wisely sold the remaining 500 tickets over the counter at Barley's.

But no matter how the tickets are handled, there's no making everyone happy when there's much more demand than there is supply.

If you've been to Brewgrass, it's the same routine as before. Walk or drive to Martin Luther King Jr. Park (parking around there is limited). Get in that long line. Wait for the gates to open. And have your ticket and ID ready to go.

Almost every year, some tickets are scalped outside the gated park. But it's always a risk because there's no easy way to tell if the tickets are genuine. Some tickets are available at websites like StubHub, but they aren't cheap. We saw them priced there at $120-$175 each. That money would buy a lot of great brew.

Is it better to come early, or wait for a while? Personally, I'm down there before the gates open. Some brewers have limited-edition beers that can run out fast.

The biggest buzz this weekend may be around Wicked Weed Brewing, the new, not-yet-opened craft brewery on Biltmore Avenue. It will be serving some test brews, and many will want to try them.

New Belgium and Sierra Nevada will both be at Brewgrass, making their first appearances there since announcing they were building big breweries in the area.

Many beers served at Brewgrass are available here all year long. But some are not, including the Wild Wacky Wit from Moon River, of Savannah, or Weeping Radish brews from North Carolina's Outer Banks. I'm always curious to see what Duck Rabbit Brewing, of Farmville, pulls out of its hat. Mother Earth from Kinston is another brewery to seek out.

The most important advice is to pace yourself. Plan on drinking a lot of water between beers and eating something. And set up a designated driver or get a ride home by bus or taxi.

No ticket?

For those who can't get into Brewgrass, there are many ways to enjoy the local beer scene this weekend.

One of the best places is the Thirsty Monk downtown, 92 Patton Ave. The upstairs pub is filled with great American beer and the downstairs room serves only great Belgium brews -- and plenty of them. It's arguably Asheville's most unique spot for beer.

Barley's, 42 Biltmore Ave., has dozens of beers on draft. Brewgrass producer Jimi Rentz runs this place, and he helped establish Asheville as Beer City.

Bruisin' Ales, 66 Broadway St., has the best selection of bottled beer in these parts. It's one of America's finest beer stores, so come with your spending money.

Ahoy! Help ABC name its coconut porter

Asheville Brewing will release its latest small-batch brew, a coconut porter on Wednesday, which is national Talk Like a Pirate Day. Brewery President Mike Rangel said the brewery has a contest going on Facebook to name the beer, made by founding brewer Doug Riley.

The 6.9 percent coconut porter is stylistically different from Asheville Brewing's popular Ninja Porter. "It's got a good chocolate finish," he said. Only seven barrels were made (that's 14 kegs), and it won't last long.

Homebrew competition

Steve Nance, of Winston-Salem, won best in show at the 2012 Blue Ridge Brew Off homebrewers competition. The contest attracted 372 entries, which were judged at Highland Brewing Co. His winning entry was an American IPA. Adam Reinke, of Arden, took second in best in show for a kolsch. Laurel Kanan, of Seattle, took third for a Bohemian Pilsner. And the Dr. Fix Award for a new brewer was given to Matt Goodwyn, of Winston-Salem, for a wood-aged beer. The entire list of winners can be found at maltsters.org.

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